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March 2, 2011, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Seattle Municipal Tower Room # 2750

700 5th Avenue, Seattle




On Monday, November 24, I introduced Council Bill 116404, an ordinance to implement interim tree protection regulations.  The Council will hold a public comment meeting on this ordinance on Monday, December 15, at 5:30 PM, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Related documents and the ordinance can be reviewed on the Council’s website:

This ordinance is intended to provide protection to trees during an interim period of six months to a year while the Council and Mayor develop a long-range program that combines regulations with incentives to preserve trees on private land.  It sets specific thresholds for tree removal on residential and commercial lots, reinforces protections against removal of exceptional trees, adds groves of trees to the definition of exceptional trees, and establishes specific standards for issuing notices of violation and review and appeal processes.

The draft Council ordinance prohibits removal of exceptional trees without documentation of a hazard or other specifically defined reason.  It also limits the removal of all trees more than six inches in diameter to three trees per year, unless there is an approved development permit.  Such permits would be issued after consideration of alternatives that would protect the trees.  It also closes a loophole in the current code that allows the removal of trees by obtaining a building permit and then not constructing the permitted structure, by requiring property owners who remove trees under a building permit to proceed with the project within one year.

Councilmembers recognize that this legislation imposes significant new restrictions on tree removal by property owners, and is likely to be controversial.  Mature trees provide many critical ecosystem services, such as absorbing carbon dioxide and air pollutants, providing wildlife habitat, stabilizing soil, enhancing property value, and reducing storm water runoff.  Our goal is to protect mature trees and minimize the loss of trees during the time it will take to develop a long term approach to tree protection and canopy restoration.  In the interim, we want to ensure that property owners retain their ability to achieve their goals in managing their properties.  The legislation is not intended to prevent development, but to set reasonable limits on how that development can affect Seattle’s declining numbers of mature trees, implementing our Comprehensive Plan goals of no net loss of tree canopy.  We are actively seeking counsel from the public on whether this proposal meets these goals and appropriately balances the interests of property owners and trees.  We welcome thoughts or ideas for amendments that would better achieve these ends.